The 5 pm Office Snack: Where Diets Go to Die


The 5 pm Office Snack: Where Diets Go to Die

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

It finally happened. You stood on the weighing scale and the number staring back was the one you’d promised yourself you weren’t going to reach. The worst part is that you have no idea how you got here. Sure, work and relationships take up most of your energy, and while you’ve binged a couple of nights, you’ve still been trying to find time to work out and eat smart. By now, the amount you’ve spent on green tea is equivalent to Assam’s GDP. Still, for some godforsaken reason, that tyre around your middle isn’t going anywhere.

Imagine this familiar story with the added awful twist of an office-diet bet that you’re going to lose miserably, and you’ll have an idea about the shaky boat that we all find ourselves on, as we close in on our 30s. The bet has the stated purpose of a joint mission, launched to help each other lose weight, but the truth is it’s every man for himself. The first person to lose weight gets to hold the moral high ground over the other, so you use every piece of ammunition you can. The AK-47 in your hand, if you’ve got the discipline to use it right, is the 5 pm office snack.

Research has shown that evening snacking is the death of all noble intentions. Vada pavs, samosas, bread rolls – evening snacks can be found guilty of causing everything from weight gain to cholesterol. 5 pm is that deadly hour when all hell breaks loose. Your colleagues, the same people who unpack their dabba at office lunch like they’re presenting a health food show on TLC, fail in this tender spot. “This quinoa is 100 per cent fat-free,” they say, following it up with, “and rice is just going to go straight to your love handles,” while staring down their nose at your plate of normal food. Let them take what they think is a victory sip from their kale smoothie that looks like The Hulk’s urine: You’ll be having the last laugh later.

As afternoon turns to evening, and your lunchtime rival’s hipster metabolism makes short work of that damned quinoa, they will begin feeling the dreaded 5 pm hunger pang. The differences in their conduct between this meal and lunch is like the difference between the films of Stanley Kubrick and Sajid Khan. One is a refined, thoughtful experience while the other is a mindless, disgraceful surrender to their baser instincts. The formerly health-conscious office colleagues begin sneaking off from their seats one by one to visit the corner store.

As if by magic, fast-food wrappers materialise on desks and biscuit and chip crumbs dot keyboards like a minefield. The quinoa-munching food snobs have become the ghosts of office lunches past.

Healthy, controlled portions and diet buddies aren’t going to help if you go all Jughead Jones on any food available when the evening hunger pangs strike.

For some reason, the 5 pm munchies are immune to smart decisions, and it’s the time most people indulge in fried snacks, fast foods, and sugary drinks. It doesn’t help that our culinary culture celebrates the fattiest, most unhealthy foods as the tastiest snacks. It’s almost as if the word “snack” is a magical spell that turns trans-fat and sugar ineffective on your body. It isn’t. Eating healthy without reining in your 5 pm hunger pangs is like going scuba diving without an oxygen tank.

This is your opening to sneak to victory in the diet challenge. While most people ignore the evening snack’s role as the main culprit in the case of the expanding waistline, making a smart decision at this point instead of giving in to the siren song of samosa could be the edge you need. Healthy, controlled portions and diet buddies aren’t going to help if you go all Jughead Jones on any food available when the evening hunger pangs strike. Instead of junk food, which will just make you fat, try eating something that actually gives you some fuel for the rest of the day. Have a fruit, or some nuts, and enjoy the sweet, not to mention satisfying taste of victory in your diet challenge.

You’re still going to have to be sensible with what you eat at other times of the day, but keeping a check on the trash we normally indulge in at 5 pm might just be the key to getting your diet to work for you. The office-diet challenge is yours to win, and come evening time, you get to be the food snob looking down your nose at what people eat. All of this is possible as long as you avoid the death trap that is 5 pm – where diets go to die.